HHS cuts services to migrant children

HHS cutting funding for migrant programs

TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - Health and Human Services has notified its shelters to stop providing recreational, educational and legal services to unaccompanied minors, according to a report in the Washington Post.

According to the Trump Administration, money for those services has run out even though they are contractually and legally mandated.

Southwest Key, the largest sheltering service in Arizona did not respond to phone calls and email to determine how it might affect them.

They are licensed to house up 1,000 unaccompanied minors by the state at its shelters in Phoenix and Tucson. Many of those stay for an average 48 days before being reunited with family or paired with sponsors.

District 10 Democrat legislator Kristen Engle has been in touch with other state officials to determine how the directive from HHS may affect Arizona.

“We’re a little bit in the dark,” she said. “We don’t have access to those facilities.”

Engle was among a group of state lawmakers who toured the Southwest Key shelter in Tucson in July 2018.

She described the playgrounds as “dusty” with “little or no equipment for the children.”

Classrooms, she said, had no textbooks. The students used a small white board for their English lessons.

“I already had a concern over the education that was being provided,” she said. “And now hearing that maybe funding has been pulled for even that is heartbreaking, it’s wrong, it’s tragic.”

The Department of Homeland Security says it has run out of money for those services because the migrant crisis has become overwhelming.

How many unaccompanied minors are in Tucson, is not known.

What has generally been a full employee parking lot on Oracle Road, was less than three quarters full today.

Engle, and other lawmakers in Phoenix, will be monitoring the shelter here and the one in the state’s capitol.

However, the state’s oversight is limited to inspections, licensing and worker clearances.

Engle says providing an education to the children “is their right” and is “mandated by law.”

“Not only do the contracts require education six hour a day, education and recreation,” she said. “But it’s also a requirement of the universal declaration of human rights that kids are provided with an education.”

Copyright 2019 KOLD News 13. All rights reserved.